Mwenge County South Constituency in Kyenjojo District is one of the constituencies to watch in the western Uganda region ahead of the 2016 general elections as we expect a tight race between two NRM big wigs, the State Minister for Finance, Mr Aston Kajara, and Kyenjojo District chairman, Mr James Byamukama.
Mr Kajara is serving his third term in office as area MP while Mr Byamukama is serving his second term as the district chairman/district NRM chairman.
The two men command a big following in the district and as such, party allegiance may not work here but other factors may be at play, including personal alliances in a constituency where no one else has indicated they could be joining the running.
Mwenge South is a stronghold of NRM. Since elective politics were re-introduced in 1996, the area has voted more than 90 per cent for the ruling party and there are even villages known to have returned a 100 per cent vote for NRM and President Museveni.
In the 2011 elections, Kyenjojo gave President Museveni 93 per cent, thereby earning its place amongst six districts which gave him more than 90 per cent in Uganda.
The district is a good place for the ruling party which can only so much as look on as its ‘children’ tangle between and amongst themselves.
As such, the local politics are largely determined by NRM politics.
The only time that the people voted against the NRM was in the 2006 LC5 elections in which James Byamukama (the current LC5 chairperson) defeated William Kaija, then the NRM flag bearer.
The entire NRM party machinery, including President Museveni, came to Kyenjojo to root for Kaija but the people rejected the party and its candidate. This was due to the strong personal qualities and the faith people had in Mr Byamukama. Later, Byamukama, who had left the ruling party over certain differences rejoined NRM and was elected the party branch chairman.
Due to the ethnic and religious mix of the area, politics can easily become tribal or religious-based.
The immigrants, commonly known here as ‘Bafuruki’ tend to vote as a block in order to protect themselves while religions such as Faith of Unity headed by Owobusobozi Bisaka also supports particular candidates who are in favour of their interests.
Mr George William Musabe, an opinion leader, observes that the voting pattern in Mwenge South since the 1990s has hovered around the person of Byamukama.
He remembers that “In 1993 Byamukama backed Aston Kajara for the Constituent Assembly to beat his rival Mzee Raphael Bitamazire. In 2001, Byamukama backed his wife Dora Byamukama who went on to beat Kajara”
Now, Byamukama, who recently declared that he will contest for Mwenge South in 2016, is said to be linked to a campaign alliance that brings together William Kaija, who wants to go for the district chairman seat and the former Kyenjojo woman MP, Joyce Kwebiha aka Mama Mission, who also wants another bite at the woman MP seat.
In this alliance, Kaija, Byamukama and Kwebiha will form a joint campaign strategy in which they will root for each other, according to sources.
Mr Byamukama will also bank on his positions as the incumbent district chairperson and NRM district chairman to influence things. He also enjoys a strong support among the Bafuruki, Bisaaka’s faith and other minorities.
At a recent burial in Nyamango in Kyenjojo Town Council where both Byamukama and Kajara attended, Byamukama refused to recognise the presence of Kajara.
Byamukama said, “The Batooro say that when two men fall in love with the same woman, they never recognise each other due to jealousy”.
But at the same burial, Kajara played it cool and later said, “2016 is still very far for someone to declare his interests for a political seat”. He critcised Byamukama for not recognising him.
Asked this week whether he will be in the running again, Kajara said, “Why not, I must contest come what may”.
Kajara’s strength lies in some developments he has made in the district including establishing a radio station in Kyenjojo Town, Kyenjojo FM and fostering the elevation of some urban centres from town boards to town councils.
Elevating Kyenjojo Town Council to a municipality status will boost his campaign.
A new face has, however, entered the picture. Little known Hannington Mbabazi, a journalist who owns a media company, The Giants, wants to enter the ring.
Mbabazi was born 40 years ago in Kabale District.
His parents migrated to Kigunda parish, Kisojo Sub-county, Kyenjojo district 30 years ago.
From a peasantry background, Mbabazi feels that people in Mwenge South are not properly represented in Parliament, one of the reasons he launched that unsuccessful bid in the 2011 NRM parliamentary primaries where he lost to Mr Kajara. He eventually supported the incumbent.
“Since Kajara has now failed to deliver to the people, I am offering myself again come 2016 so that people in Mwenge South can also be able to access some basics like clean water, health services, improved agriculture sector, better grades in schools, improved rural road networks” Mbabazi says.
The district waits for what may be a rather interesting contest.
About Mwenge South
Mwenge County in Kyenjojo District is part of Tooro Kingdom and most Batooro trace roots there. As such, the politics of Mwenge resonate across the Tooro sub- region and beyond.